Wednesday, 29 January 2014

My latest report to St Enoder Parish Council

At last night’s meeting of St Enoder Parish Council, I presented my report as a Cornwall Councillor. It covered the period 23rd November 2013 – 24th January 2014, and was as follows:

1.         Council meetings

I have attended a range of meetings over the last two months. These included: Full Council (2); Central Area Committee; China Clay Area Network; Environment, Heritage and Planning Portfolio Advisory Committee (PAC) (and three associated pre-agenda briefings/meetings); Homes and Communities PAC; Planning and Development Improvement Group (informal); Strategic Planning Committee; and the Transport and Waste PAC (informal).

2.         Other meetings

I also attended six meetings about the future of LEADER and related funding in Cornwall in the period 2015-2020. This included a meeting with the Chairman of the Local Enterprise Partnership and the Community-led Local Development working group (CLLD) which I continue to chair.

Local meetings attended included Indian Queens Victory Hall Committee, Indian Queens Pit Association, and the Governors of Summercourt Academy.

3.         Flooding problems; December 2013 and January 2014

In recent weeks, flooding incidents across Cornwall have hit the headlines once again. This has included significant coastal flooding and associated damage – which has been estimated at over £2 million.

There were also a number of incidents with flood water within St Enoder Parish during the recent Christmas and New Year period. This included some internal flooding at properties in Blue Anchor, Fraddon; significant water run-off from fields associated with Polmenna Farm, which flooded a garage in Fraddon; significant water run-off from fields near Wartha Mews, Fraddon; significant external flooding around two properties at St Dennis Junction, while rising water would have flooded two properties in Chapel Town, Summercourt, if the residents had not secured a number of pumps to remove the water from around their homes.

I visited some of the properties during the actual incidents on 23rd December 2013 and 1st January 2014, and I have already produced a report about what happened. This report has been sent to Cornwall Council and I have archived a copy with the Parish Council.

It should be noted that the properties affected had been previously hit by incidents in December 2012 and March 2013, and works were already planned to investigate measures to protect them against further flooding.

4.         Flooding problems; St Dennis Junction

In December 2012, two properties at Dennis Junction on the old A30 – about one mile from the crossroads at Indian Queens – were flooded. The water came from the road ditches and associated pipes, which simply could not cope with the amount of rainfall.

This was included within the detailed report that I produced last year and, as a consequence, improvements were made to the road ditches and pipework in this area in Mid January in order to prevent the future flooding of two properties.

5.         Flooding problems; Property Level Protection (PLP)

Following my production of the report on the flooding incidents in St Enoder Parish in November/December 2012 and March 2013, I have continued to make representations on behalf of local residents.

The unitary authority has secured funding for a new Property Level Protection (PLP) scheme across Cornwall. And I am pleased to be able to report that – because of the detail in my report – about eight properties in Fraddon and Summercourt will be included. Surveyors will soon be visiting these properties to explore what could be done to safeguard them against flooding in the future.

6.         Trevarren

Since November 2013, I have made further representations on behalf of the residents of Trevarren, who remain concerned about the surcharge of waste from the foul water onto the highway at Trevarren. I can confirm that this is an ongoing problem and, over the Christmas period, there have been a number of further episodes on seepage onto the highway.

I have recently received assurances from South West Water, via Steve Rosser their Waste Water Strategic Planning Manager, that they are prioritising Trevarren as they develop a programme for dealing with external flooding across Cornwall. He wrote:

“I can confirm that SWW submitted our PR14 business plan for the period 2015-20 to Ofwat for scrutiny in December 2013, this included funding to resolve four times as many external only flooding problems as was the case in our 2010-15 plan.  Previously, our primary objective has been to resolve internal flood risk, however, we recognise that external flooding such as is being experienced at Trevarren can be very unpleasant for our customers and we have therefore included an enhanced programme of works to address serious external problems.  Thanks to your recent communications with local residents we now have a full record of flood history at Trevarren which will assist in maximising available funding to find a resolution to this longstanding problem.  

“Unfortunately, a final decision on full acceptance of our business plan is not due until next winter.  However, as these works also have strong support from our Operations team under Mike Galligan we will be commencing re-evaluation of potential solutions early in financial year 2014-15 and aim to be provide an update on progress in the summer.  Subject to Ofwat approval and agreement of a suitable solution we have targeted improvement works to commence early in the 2015-17 period to coincide with other planned improvements in the St Columb area.”    

7.         Clay Country mobile library / one-stop-shop

Cornwall Council continues to be in an extremely difficult financial position, because of massive reductions in funding from central government and rising costs. Members of the Parish Council will already be aware that it has agreed to make cuts of £44 million from its budget for the next financial year.

I am extremely saddened that the unitary authority has now announced, amongst other things, that – in order to keep to its reduced budget – it is about to start a consultation on plans to reduce opening hours at local libraries and one-stop-shops, and a further 12-week consultation on plans to cease all mobile library and mobile one stop shop services.

I am extremely disappointed that the Clay Country mobile library / one-stop-shop is under threat and I will report back when I have more information about the consultation.

8.         Kelliers

As members will recall, there is one outstanding issue that must be dealt with in relation the Kelliers, before the lease agreement between Cornwall Council and St Enoder Parish Council can be finalised. This relates to obligations associated with the closed landfill sites in the area.

I recently met with Jonny Alford from Cornwall Council’s property team. He has informed me that Cornwall Council are continue to monitor the landfill areas with a view to reporting their findings to the Environment Agency in the late spring. Cornwall Council believes that if the monitoring shows low level of activity, it is anticipated that the landfill licence will be surrendered and there will be no lasting liability to manage the site as a closed landfill.

Mr Alford has suggested that, at this point, it might be sensible to complete the agreed lease and for St Enoder Parish Council to become responsible for the management and improvement of the site.  

Mr Alford has also noted that the Environment Agency could remain concerned about the landfill areas after the monitoring period and decline to surrender the licence. If this happened, it has been suggested that Cornwall Council and the Parish Council could draft additional clauses to the lease (reflecting the fact that the unitary authority would retain the liability for the landfill licence, monitoring and management) before it is signed.

9.         Improvements at Indian Queens Primary School

As noted in my last report, discussions are ongoing between Cornwall Council and Indian Queens Primary School about the funding package for the construction of new classrooms, so that all children in the Indian Queens area can be guaranteed a place at the School.

It is hoped that detailed plans will be developed in the coming weeks and then publicised to the local community. 

10.       Stopping up of Highway at New Road, Penhale

On 28th November 2013, I attended the Inquiry into the proposed stopping up of the highway at New Road, sought by Kingsley Village in order to allow them to construct the approved extension to Kingsley Village and a new car parking area.

In previous months, I had attempted to assist the two main parties (Kingsley Developers and Julian and Son) to come to a compromise based around a new access road to Mr Julian’s premises. I did my best to be a go-between, though I was ultimately unsuccessful. For that reason, I did not make any formal representations to the Inquiry.

Cllr Michael Bunyan attended the Inquiry on behalf of St Enoder Parish Council. At the beginning of the day’s proceedings, he explained that the views of Parish Council had already been lodged in writing. This was acknowledged and Cllr Bunyan offered to answer any questions if there was a need for further clarity or extra information. No questions were forthcoming.

The stopping up order has been granted and is covered elsewhere on the agenda of this meeting.

11.       Planning; proposed turbine at Beacon Road, Summercourt  PA12/02362

Members of the Parish Council will be aware that the appeal into the above planning application has been dismissed. I think it is important to note that Cornwall Council only refused the original application because of concerns about noise.

However, in the detailed representation that I produced on behalf of the Parish Council, we also raised concerns including the adverse impact on the nearest residents, as well as impact on landscape and the setting of the Grade 1 Listed church at St Enoder. All these extra concerns were acknowledged by the Inspector as adverse impacts, which were added to his reasons not to allow the appeal. It certainly shows that it is worthwhile to make detailed representations on contentious planning applications.

12.       Planning; proposed turbine at Nancolleth   PA13/07654

I attended the Central Planning Committee on 18th December to speak on the above application, which the Parish Council has commented on as an adjoining Parish after we had been contacted by parishioners.

Because no other members of the Parish Council were available to attend, I read out a statement – which had been prepared by Cllr Jenny Pickles – and, as divisional member, added some further thoughts about how the landscapes of Mid Cornwall were receiving less protection than other parts of Cornwall.

The application was turned unanimously by Cornwall Council, though I understand that the applicants have already lodged an appeal against the decision.

13.       Planning; proposed traveller site at Toldish   PA13/02083

As requested previously by the Parish Council, I have produced a detailed representation for the planning appeal objecting to the above proposal. It has been submitted to the Planning Inspectorate. I understand that there will be a hearing into the proposal on 1st April.

14.       Planning; 2.67 hectare solar farm at Glebe Farm, Summercourt   PA12/05890

Members of the Parish Council will be aware that the above application was approved on the 31st October and that, when it went through Strategic Planning Committee, it was agreed that a unilateral undertaking be signed to pay £5,500 to St Enoder Parish Council as a one-off community payment.

Late last year, I was disappointed to find out that the unilateral undertaking had not been produced. I also found out that the developers had changed, following the granting of the planning consent. I have repeatedly followed up the issue of the community payment with legal staff at the Council, as well as the development firm. In November, I received assurances that the community payment would still be honoured and I am pleased to be able to report that St Enoder Parish Council received a payment of £5,500 earlier this month.

15.       Youth Club

The initial five sessions of the Youth Club took place in November and December and liaised with the two youth workers, Daniel James and Laura Kinsley-Potter, on a weekly basis. I have also been in contact with Carol Fitzpatrick of the Cornwall Youth Service and she is willing for the provision to continue, but she would like to see more children attending the Club.

The Club reconvened on Wednesday 22nd January and I have booked all Wednesday evenings at the Methodist Church Hall in Indian Queens for the next four months.

I am pleased to be able to report that the committee of the Indian Queens Half Marathon has donated £100 to the Youth Club project, which I have passed on to the Clerk.

16.       Adoption of road at St James View, Fraddon

I am also very pleased to be able to report that the process whereby Cornwall Council formally adopts the road and associated pavements in St James View is nearing completion.

17.       Environmental improvements

In the last few months, I have continued to lobby Cornwall Council to “tidy up” certain areas within the Parish. I am pleased to be able to report that, in early December 2013, CORMAC cleared weeds from around the entrance into Heather Meadow, Fraddon, and also cleared soil slippage from a pavement in Summercourt.

18.       Site visit to incinerator

On the 12th January, I attended a site visit to the site of the waste incinerator between St Dennis and Treviscoe. As someone who opposed the incinerator for a decade, it was not a nice experience to see the full extent of the new haul road and the wide-ranging works being carried out on site.

19.       Indian Queens Victory Hall

The Indian Queens Victory Hall Committee has completed its latest improvements (largely funded by the Clay Country Local Action Group) which included the purchase of 119 new chairs and nine tables – thanks to the short-term cashflow loan from the Parish Council. The Committee has received all the grant from the LAG and has been able to repay the loan to the Parish Council. I have given the cheque to the Clerk.

20.       Full Council

At the last meeting of Cornwall Council, I was one of the signatories to a motion which sought fair funding for Cornwall and agreed to make further representations to central government. The motion won near-unanimous support.

Along with many members from mid Cornwall, I supported a motion to review Cornwall’s approach to waste. It was however heavily defeated by members who had no wish to revisit any aspects of the Integrated Waste Management Contract.

Councillors also voted to consult on a new draft of the Cornwall Local Plan with a housing target of 47,500 for the period 2010-2030. Sadly, the debate was less about what is right for Cornwall, and more about what target we could get past central government. For more information on this debate members could visit my blog at

21.       Newsletter

I have just printed my six-monthly newsletter and this is presently being delivered around the Parish. It promotes the new Youth Club, and also seeks information about local people who served and died in the First World War for the book I am presently writing.

22.       Inquiries

Throughout the last two months, I have also helped numerous people with advice and guidance. Issues included housing problems, planning matters, various enforcement matters, parking issues, flytipping, etc.

Stephen Richardson for Truro and Falmouth

Congratulations to Stephen Richardson, who has been selected by Mebyon Kernow to contest the Truro and Falmouth seat at the next General Election.

I am personally very excited by his candidacy. Stephen is committed to a better future for Cornwall and he
has an almost unbelievable work ethic. I am confident that he will do MK proud over the next fifteen months and I would like to wish his campaign all the best.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Fair funding for Cornwall Council

My article in next week’s Cornish Guardian will focus on the need for fair funding for local government in Cornwall. It will be as follows:

At this month’s meeting of Cornwall Council, I was one of the co-signatories to a cross-party motion seeking fair funding for the unitary authority.

The motion noted the “severe cuts to funding for local councils from central government, together with practical constraints imposed on the ability of councils to raise levels of council tax,” which it stated was impeding “local councils from carrying out their responsibilities” in the manner that they would wish.

The motion also observed that the “current funding formula used by the Government is imbalanced and underfunds rural authorities in comparison with urban councils.” It pledged that Cornwall Council would “take all reasonable steps to make central government aware of the real hardships” that its actions are causing to local communities.

There was near unanimous support for the motion, which is unsurprising, given the stark financial situation facing Cornwall Council and other local authorities.

Cornwall Council has already had to agree cuts of £43 million for 2014/15 because of “central government funding cuts, inflationary cost pressures and unavoidable service pressures.” Further cuts of £62 million are anticipated in 2015/16, with cuts of £109 million for the period 2016/17 to 2018/19.

Research from LG Futures (Costs of Providing Services in Rural Areas) meanwhile demonstrates that the “cost of providing services in a rural area is greater than … in an urban area.”

It also concluded that “there is a substantial cost penalty faced by rural authorities in providing services and that the provision for sparsity – costs associated with rural areas – within the government funding formulae is significantly lower than the actual cost.”

And yet, central government continues to allocate more money to urban authorities (£487 per head) than rural ones (£409 per head).

Cornwall Council recently reported that, if it was “funded at the same per capita basis as the average urban authority,” its annual funding would be £42 million higher.

And it that wasn’t bad enough, research also demonstrates that people living in rural areas still have less access to services.

Central government also included what it terms a “floor damping” reduction in its recent financial settlement. This measure ensures that “there are no significant funding increases/decreases for individual local authorities when changes to grant funding mechanisms are made.”

Cornwall Council has worked out that, because of this “damping,” it will get “£9.4 million less than the Government’s own calculations indicated was due.” It has also discovered that this unfair measure has been locked into the Government’s funding mechanism for the next ten years!

Supporting the Campaign for a Cornish Assembly

Well done to all those Mebyon Kernow members who took the Campaign for a Cornish Assembly onto the streets of Truro today.

If you haven’t already backed the campaign, why not sign up today. For more details, see:

Tuesday, 14 January 2014

Update on the Cornwall Local Plan

Cornwall Council has today voted to consult on a new draft of the Cornwall Local Plan with a housing target of 47,500 for the period 2010-2030. Later in the year, a version will be presented to central government for an examination in public.

Sadly, much of the debate has been less about what is right for Cornwall, and more about what figure we could get past central government.

I would like to give a full update on what has happened today and what has happened in recent months.

In the last Council, I argued for a housing target of around 38,000. With the support of (retired) councillor David Biggs, I challenged the flawed ONS projections – and the veracity of other data – which had been used by planning officers to justify higher housing numbers in the region of 48,000-54,000.

Our philosophy was that areas which wanted higher growth should take those decisions for themselves through Neighbourhood Plans.

The target of 38,000 won the support of the members of the old Planning Policy Panel – but was rejected by the Conservative-led Cabinet. This was the second time that Cabinet had ignored its advisory panel and pushed for a higher number than we had recommended.

In early 2012, Full Council finally agreed a figure of 42,250 for the public consultation, which took place prior to the May elections.

Since then – in my role as Chairman of the Environment, Heritage and Planning PAC – I have sought to engage members in the work on the Local Plan,

I hosted an informal meeting of the PAC to which all members were invited. Options presented to that meeting included the 38,000 authored by myself and David Biggs, the previous Council’s agreed 42,250 and the officers’ recommended figure of 47,500 contained within the recent Strategic Housing Market Needs Assessment – which equates to the Government’s so-called “objectively assessed need” as required by the National Planning Policy Framework.

This meeting also received an analysis of how Core Strategies and Local Plans had fared, once submitted to a planning inspector for public examination – a process which all Plans have to go through.

It made sober reading and confirmed that localism is truly a farce. The Coalition has a massive growth agenda and pretty much every single Plan with a target set below projections from the ONS have – after significant delays – been forced to accept higher numbers. It is a disgrace, but it is also a reality.

At that meeting, over two-thirds of the members present indicated that they – some begrudgingly – intended to support the higher figure, because they perceived there was little or no chance that a lower target would be accepted at examination.

Given the prevailing will of the members of the unitary authority, I told members that I would independently present detailed evidence for an alternative lower target to the Inquiry.

And that is what I still intend to do.

I think it is accurate to say that most members of the Environment, Heritage and Planning PAC would have preferred a lower target – but they worked up two options for Cabinet and Council, as requested by members – namely the view of the previous Council and the officers’ recommendation.

No lower options were presented to the PAC and, last week, I was surprised to see the Conservative Group – the majority of whom had argued for higher numbers in the last Council – put forward an amendment to Full Council for 33,000 properties for the period 2010-2030.

MPs and prospective MPs had been making political hay in recent days with press releases and tweets – implying that the Government would accept a target of 33,000, though there was absolutely no evidence that this was indeed the case.

The proposal was not even for 33,000 new units.

It was for 33,000 properties, “though no area will be allocated a lower than their extant consents” – which will automatically add another 3,000 to the target – and that local members could “request … that a higher number be allocated” which – given recent debates – would add thousands more to the total.

The MK group voted against this poorly worked up proposal masquerading as a target of 33,000. And one thing is sure, if it had been agreed, the final figure would have been much greater than the 38,000 that was not supported in the last Council.

The MK group also did not support the target of 47,500. In the final vote, we abstained because no alternative proposal had been tabled, which could be supported, and a consultation document needed to be agreed.

During this consultation, the MK group will continue to challenge the Coalition Government to allow Cornwall Council to set its own housing target – and to work up detailed evidence for a sustainable lower housing target which we will present to the public examination.

Monday, 13 January 2014

Bad news on libraries and one-stop-shops

Cornwall Council is in an extremely difficult position, because of massive reductions in funding from central government and rising costs. It has already agreed to make cuts of £44 million from its 2014-2015 budget.

I am extremely saddened that  the unitary authority has now announced, amongst other things, that – in order to keep to its reduced budget – it is about to start a 12-week consultation on plans to reduce opening hours at local libraries and one-stop-shops, and to cease all mobile library and mobile one stop shop services.

As a representative of the China Clay Area, I am gutted that the Clay Country mobile one-stop-shop is under threat and other rural areas are also likely to see a disproportionate decline in the provision of their local services.

Bad news on economic performance

The latest figures on economic performance, for the year 2012, have just been released. These show that the Cornish economy has slipped back, and that Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is the worst performing NUTS II region. The briefing from Cornwall Council is as follows:

“The figures from the latest Gross Value Added (GVA) release show that GVA fell in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly in 2012 compared to 2011.  The UK economy grew as did most NUTS 2 regions.

“Our position has therefore deteriorated compared to other areas.   In all, six regions saw a decline in 2012 compared to 2011.   The relatively good figures comparing performance in 2012 with 1999 reflect the above average growth rates in the early part of the period.

“Our total GVA in 2012 was £7bn, down 0.3% on 2011.  The revised figures show that between 2010 and 2011 the Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly economy declined by 3.3% while the UK economy grew by 4.2%.

“In per capita terms, our GVA figure for 2012 was £13,036, down 1.0% on 2011.  Per capita GVA is lower than it was in 2007; a characteristic shared with another four UK regions. 

“When indexed against the UK per capita average in 2012, the figure for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly was 61.2%, down on the 2011 figure of 62.5%.  Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly is now below West Wales and the Valleys, reversing trends of the previous years.

“Between 1999 and 2012 our total output increased by 76%, the third highest of the 37 NUTS 2 regions, the UK total increased by 66%.  Our per capita increase was 60%, the fourth highest of the NUTS 2 regions.  

“Growth rates for Cornwall rose in the early period, peaking in 2002, since when growth has fallen back.

“Total GVA in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly peaked in 2010 at £7,282 million; the 2012 figure was 3.3% down, the worst performance of any NUTS 2 region.  At the same time UK GVA rose by 4.2%.    The bulk of this decline occurred in 2011 with essentially a static economy in 2012.”

Sunday, 12 January 2014

At the site of the St Dennis incinerator

I have just returned from a visit to the construction site of the waste incinerator near St Dennis. As someone who opposed the scheme for many years, it was extremely saddening to see what has happened to what was once a green field.

Here are a couple of photographs to show how the works are progressing. The large structure is the bunker for waste.

Flooding incidents in St Enoder Parish

In December 2012 and March 2013, a number of properties in Fraddon, Indian Queens and Summercourt were flooded. On behalf of the Parish Council, I prepared a detailed report, which outlined the nature of the incidents and sought action from Cornwall Council to address the problems.

As a consequence of the report, improvements are being made to the road ditches and pipework along a section of the old A30, about one mile to the east of Indian Queens, in order to prevent the future flooding of two properties.

Cornwall Council has also devised a Property Level Protection (PLP) scheme across Cornwall and surveyors will soon be visiting a number of properties in Fraddon and Summercourt to explore what could be done to safeguard them against future flooding incidents.

There were also a number of incidents during the recent Christmas and New Year period – and a further report has already been sent to Cornwall Council to keep them informed about what has been happening locally.

If you have had problems with flood water in recent weeks, please get in contact with me, so that I can make representations on your behalf.

Boris Johnson is wrong

My first post-Christmas article in the Cornish Guardian looked back to a speech made by Boris Johnson in November. But it had to be said. The article was as follows:

One month before Christmas, the Mayor of London Boris Johnson delivered a lecture at an event sponsored by the Centre for Policy Studies.

It was an appalling speech. It showed little generosity of spirit, and was widely condemned – even by close colleagues in the Coalition.

The London Mayor basically declared that greed is good. He argued that it was "futile" to attempt to end inequality in society, stating: “Some measure of inequality is essential for the spirit of envy and keeping up with the Joneses that is, like greed, a valuable spur to economic activity.”

Johnson also mocked the 16% "of our species" with an IQ below 85, and called for more to be done to assist the economic ambitions of the 2% of the population with an IQ above 130.

He actually told the audience of well-to-do high-achievers: "The harder you shake the pack the easier it will be for some cornflakes to get to the top. And for one reason or another – boardroom greed or, as I am assured, the natural and God-given talent of boardroom inhabitants – the income gap between the top cornflakes and the bottom cornflakes is getting wider than ever.”

Many people rightly took exception to his insensitive comments. The Deputy Prime Minister accused Johnson of “unpleasant, careless elitism” and condemned him for talking about human beings like “dogs.” And one tabloid blasted him for suggesting that “some people are just too stupid to get on in life.”

Life has been easy on Boris Johnson and he has done well out of the inequality at the heart of British society. He was very fortunate to be born into a wealthy family and – like David Cameron – educated at the elite Eton College. It was this privileged background that gave him many of the opportunities and contacts that enabled him to make a success of his life.

Indeed, I believe that it was his advantageous upbringing and family links – more so than any “natural and God-given talent” – that helped him become a prominent member of the Conservative Party, the Mayor of London and a columnist for the Daily Telegraph, for which he was paid £250,000 a year – a sum he famously once described as “chicken feed.”

Boris Johnson is wrong. Greed is not good. He conveniently forgets that one of the main causes of the financial crash was greed

And Boris Johnson is wrong on inequality. Politicians – especially the present Coalition – should be doing everything that they can to combat all forms of inequity between the haves and the have-nots.